Disability access to Parliament Buildings is via ramps at the front entrance and also at the east and west side of the building with access through automatic doors. Car parking beside the building is also available.
There is a changing places facility on the ground floor of Parliament Buildings. This provides fully accessible public toilet facilities for people with profound and multiple learning disabilities. Changing places toilets include an adult-sized, height-adjustable changing bench, hoist and plenty of space.Standard accessible toilets do not meet the needs of all people with a disability or their carers and the changing places toilet provides:
- The right equipment
- A height adjustable adult sized changing bench
- A tracking hoist system, or mobile hoist if this is not possible
- Adequate space in the changing area for the disabled person and up to two carers
- A centrally placed toilet with room either side for the carers
- A screen or curtain to allow the disabled person and carer some privacy
- A safe and clean environment
- Wide tear off paper roll to cover the bench
- A large waste bin for disposable pads
- A non-slip floor
The Northern Ireland Assembly welcomes assistance dogs onto the premises.
Working in conjunction with RNIB, the Assembly has produced a tour guide which provides, in braille, historical and general information on Parliament Buildings and the Northern Ireland Assembly. It also includes a tactile map of the entrance, Great Hall, Assembly and Senate Chambers, and tactile images of the front of Parliament Buildings, the Assembly logo, the ceiling of the Great Hall, the linen damask wall covering of the Senate and an overview plan of the Assembly Chamber. A copy of the braille guide can be borrowed from reception and the events team and education officers also hold copies.
On 24 May 2011 the “Louder than Words” charter mark was awarded to the Northern Ireland Assembly following a lengthy audit process, during which the organisation was required to demonstrate a commitment to improving access and services to deaf and hard of hearing people. The Northern Ireland Assembly became the first legislature in the United Kingdom to be awarded the prestigious Action on Hearing Loss “Louder than Words” best practice charter mark. Assembly staff have undergone training in Deaf Awareness and communication tactics to ensure that they are able to recognise and facilitate the very particular needs of deaf and hard of hearing visitors. One of our tour guides is proficient in sign language and twenty members of staff have attended basic sign language training.New equipment such as an upgrade to the hearing loop system, additional signage and the introduction of whispering tour equipment have been introduced. A whispering Tour is a special tour organised by the Assembly using the Williams Sound tour guide system provided by Action on Hearing Loss. The system comprises individual headsets worn by all tour participants and ensures that everyone receives the same hearing experience regardless of where they are located in the group or on the tour. The Williams sound tour guide system sends the guide’s message directly to the listener without background noise and at a distance of up to 150 feet.Deaf Alerter Fire Alarm Warning Messaging Systems are also available at reception.
In November 2011, the Northern Ireland Assembly began making the building even more accessible and friendly for people with autism. This started with some physical changes to the building such as setting up a quiet room behind our reception area and looking at our signage for example placing warning stickers on noisy hand dryers and symbols on toilet doors. Autism awareness training was rolled out to front line staff in December 2011 and March 2012. There are also 13 Autism Champions in Parliament Buildings who act as points of contact if anyone with autism needs assistance. The Assembly has produced an access video showing what to expect when someone arrives at the entrance to the Stormont Estate and makes their way up to Parliament Buildings. A group of young adults with autism helped us with the content and direction of the video and their assistance was fantastic. A page on the Assembly website provides information to visitors on the Autistic spectrum, including useful contacts, links, the access video, guidance and information on sensory issues that may be encountered. The link to the webpage is here. The Northern Ireland Assembly was the first organisation to receive the Autism Access Award from the National Autistic Society in 2012 and we have been reaccredited every year since.